Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

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If you want to engage in free speech, you will have to be brave.

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Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Since election day last November, and especially since inauguration day just a few weeks ago, our nation has seen numerous protests.  Some conservatives have compared the protests to temper tantrums when a child doesn’t get their way.  Some liberals have encouraged louder and even more persistent protests.

Very few are listening. 

One of the things that really disturbs me in today’s cultural/ political climate is this tendency to drown out opposing voices with emotional outbursts.  I have seen this on both sides, but it is most visible right now with the anti-Trump protests.  Since the election, there has been a highly reactive emotional response to just about everything.

Don’t get me wrong – emotional expression is good and healthy and necessary.  However, when that expression becomes a way to silence those who don’t agree with you, it becomes manipulation.  This is how I see our current “protest culture” – anything that people dislike immediately becomes a cause for massive protest, overwhelming any voices presenting an alternative view.

This is why the “silent majority” are silent!

If we are to have constructive dialog in this country, we have to be able to set aside our emotions long enough to hear each other.  Honestly, when someone I don’t agree with is in full emotional meltdown, I can’t hear your reasons, I can’t understand your perspective, and I can’t be persuaded.  All I can hear is your pain and your anger, but I can’t do anything about it.  When someone is in full emotional meltdown, they can’t hear me, either.  You can’t reason with unrestrained emotion.

Few would disagree that our nation is in crisis.  From riots in Berkley to broken rules in the Senate, it seems we are not allowed to disagree anymore.  However, it seems that there is still hope.  Last night, two Senators with dramatically different positions were able to have a civilized debate; both sides were heard.  (Cruz/Sanders Debate on Obamacare)

Make no mistake – there were plenty of verbal jabs, a bit of emotion, and a reiteration of key political positions, but they also found grounds for agreement and even made some jokes and laughed together.  Perhaps they can become a model for conversations at the grassroots level as well.

We have to rediscover a respect for each other and a willingness to listen, but we also have to recapture a desire for dialog.  I think many of us have that desire, but it takes both parties committing to conversation.

Can you restrain your emotion long enough for me to hear you?

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